The origin of Motoko Kusanagi — or “the Major” in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film adaptation looks to be different than previous incarnations. While Scarlett Johansson’s version of Major has many of the familiar elements derived from the original manga and later animated films and series, how and why she became a cyborg might be different in this new version.
In the original source material, Motoko becomes a cyborg when her brain is put into a robotic body in order to save her life after a childhood accident that nearly killed her at age nine. But the trailer suggests that the Major in this version of the story might have a past that’s a bit less straightforward.
In the trailer, Major’s called the “first of her kind.” It’s important to note that the world of Ghost in the Shell is one that’s steeped in biohacking and artificial modification, making it unclear what is meant by “kind” here. In this world, it isn’t just that it’s possible to augment one’s physical existence with cybernetics, it’s something of the standard. Major, however, represents a different, more extreme case.
Toward the end of the trailer, we hear, “Everything they told you is a lie. They did not save your life. They stole it.”
Is this a reflection on the process of becoming a cyborg, or is it possible that Ghost in the Shell is rewriting Major’s origin story?
If it is an origin story overhaul, it wouldn’t be the first time. Motoko’s origin, and her personality, have undergone a number of changes in different iterations of the story. The original manga establishes that she’s saved from a near-fatal accident as a child and, in order to save her life, her brain is put into a cybernetic body. This gives her superhuman abilities, including the ability to become invisible.
In some iterations, Motoko comes off as decidedly young and energetic. In others, though, she’s seen as a bit older, a bit more solemn, and a bit more mature than the original Masamune Shirow character — despite the young appearance of her robotic body.
We still don’t know exactly what kind of Major we’re going to see in Ghost in the Shell, but we’ll find out more as we approach the film’s release on March 31, 2017.